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UConn women win Big East crown

By Vickie Fulkerson

Publication: The Day

Published March 10. 2010 4:00AM   Updated March 10. 2010 9:19AM
Sean D. Elliot/The Day
The UConn bench, from left, Jacquie Fernandes, Heather Buck, Kaili McLaren, Caroline Doty and Lorin Dixon, celebrates as reserve Meghan Gardler scores against West Virginia in the second half of the Huskies' 60-32 win Tuesday night at the XL Center in Hartford.
Huskies shut down Mounties for third straight Big East title

Hartford - Kalana Greene had a message for anyone who might have the wrong idea about the UConn women's basketball team:

"People think we're a pretty, finesse team," Greene said. "But we can do a lot of little things. We're a team that can get down to the nitty gritty."

Such as Tuesday night in the Big East Conference tournament championship game.

Top-ranked and No. 1-seeded UConn used its lockdown mode on defense to rattle No. 2 West Virginia, holding the Mountaineers without a field goal for 11 minutes, 23 seconds of the second half before 10,040 fans at the XL Center.

UConn, which led by just five at one point in the second half, won 60-32, outscoring West Virginia 27-4 to end the game.

Greene finished with 15 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and a steal in earning Most Outstanding Player honors, while the Huskies (33-0) won their 72nd straight game - one day after securing an NCAA record of 71 in a row - and finally had a chance to celebrate a week steeped in history.

Greene, a fifth-year senior, was mobbed by her teammates as she attempted to accept her outstanding player trophy. She was joined on the Big East All-Tournament team by teammates Tina Charles and Maya Moore, West Virginia's Liz Repella and Sarah Miles, and Notre Dame's Skylar Diggins.

"It's important to have a perspective and be happy and celebrate," Moore said of finally getting a night to kick back and appreciate everything UConn has accomplished recently, both personally and individually.

"Otherwise, you lose some of the fun in it."

In the last nine days, the Huskies have seen Charles break the all-time scoring and rebounding records at UConn and seen Moore become the only junior in program history to score her 2,000th career point. They've been interviewed by the "CBS Morning News" - among many other media outlets - about the dynamics of a winning streak on which they're trying hard not to focus while they pursue a national championship.

With 15:32 remaining against West Virginia and leading just 33-28, UConn coach Geno Auriemma said his team's focus at that moment was simply to have good offensive possessions.

"When it's a five-point game, we're thinking what are we gonna do to get a bucket," Auriemma said. "Maybe something clicked in for them, 'We gotta lock 'em up defensively.' I don't think they thought that (the defense would result in only two more West Virginia baskets) or I thought that."

Moore started to get UConn in an offensive groove, perhaps, when she hit a driving layup for the Huskies, then dropped in two free throws, followed by Charles hitting her first foul-line jump shot of the night after missing the first couple.

As the XL Center fans erupted, UConn continued its pace. Greene drove the left baseline and banked in a shot to push the lead to 41-28. Charles hit another from the top of the key and Greene hit two more shots to make it 47-30.

Korinne Campbell's jump shot for West Virginia with 11:51 left would be the final points for the Mountaineers until Akeema Richards scored with 27.9 seconds to go. UConn outscored West Virginia 19-0 during that time.

Tiffany Hayes added 15 points and seven rebounds for UConn, Charles had 12 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks, and Moore finished with 10 points and seven rebounds.

Caroline Doty, who was feared to have suffered a concussion in Monday night's semifinal win over Notre Dame but did not, started and played 16 minutes for the Huskies, who won their third straight tournament title and 16th overall.

"Our defense was huge," Moore said of the Huskies, who allowed just 12 points in the second half on 5-for-26 shooting (19.2 percent). "It gives us more opportunities to get back into our offense. We kind of clicked back into ourselves."

Repella had 10 points for West Virginia (28-5), which came from a tie for 11th place last year in the Big East to set a program record for wins and receive its highest-ever national ranking - seventh, currently.

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